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Blog: Migration and equation of loss and gain

Central Europeans oppose change while Americans find opportunity in it.

(Source: AP/TASR)

Andrea Sadloňová is a Slovak-born scientist who returned home after 19 years in the USA.

People who have never had to relocate to a different country might be skeptical about my approach to life. Americans, for example, are familiar with the process of migrating, moving around, looking always for a new place or opportunity, integrating into a new society and culture. Many of them have grown up hearing stories about their families coming to America. They remember their great grandparents yearning for some lost home that they might never see. I certainly heard many beautiful stories about my great-aunts and great-uncles that left Slovakia a hundred years ago, starting new lives for themselves and generations to come.

With living in new places comes a balancing act of loss and gain. One experiences a mixture of feelings that comes from discovering something very beautiful and blissful and then having an urge to share it with people that they love, people somewhere else in the world. So I would buy gifts for these people to remedy my yearning for them. I felt like they were sharing the present moment with me. Hence, I had so many suitcases filled with gifts traveling back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. I know that I will always struggle with a yearning for lost places, lost people, lost moments of happiness and beauty, and lost opportunities, but I know I need to keep moving to get myself motivated again and find new visions and drives.

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I know that I will never be able to have everything I love in one place and that's okay. What's important is that I can draw necessary positive energy from these past experiences. I can ask people from my past, if they are still alive, for advice, just like I used to draw support from people in Slovakia during my tenure in the USA. And I know that the only way to cure these moments of melancholy is to keep going, discovering and falling in love again with new places and people.

This is what I have always admired about Americans- their never-ending courage to rejuvenate themselves - to rebuild what has fallen apart, to stay true and regroup, to learn how to connect with others, even with total strangers with whom they do not take resources from but rather help out on the journey. They know their existence is dependent on creating the connection.

Us Europeans, not understanding this aspect of American culture very well, frown upon the small talk, the superficiality or fleeting connection. Europeans hold on to their roots with anxiety and aggression. It is understandable because Europeans, especially the Central Europeans, have always had less resources and less money to start fresh. We were always ruled over by somebody else and somebody always wanted to take our resources and keep it at our expense. Historically, Americans had more resources so starting over was always easier for them. Central Europeans see a loss in the change, while Americans see an opportunity. But I don’t blame the Central Europeans for being opposed to change because of what it brings. For myself, I just hope I can keep this American point of view.

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